Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Churchill Series - Aug. 8, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

A recent series post reported the decision of England’s curriculum authority to drop Churchill from the list of historical figures recommended for teaching in English secondary schools.

The Churchill Center, an organization based in Washington and dedicated to promoting Churchill schorarship and public awareness of his contributions to free society issued a press release concerning the decision. Excerpts follow:

Considerable misinformation attended a recent announcement that Churchill, Gandhi, Stalin, Hitler and Martin Luther King, were deleted from a suggested list of historical figures recommended for teaching in English secondary schools.

The story would be disturbing if accepted at face value. The facts are more complex.

In the past, England's curriculum authority has not only specified subjects to be taught, but has issued detailed instructions. The new policy frees teachers from those instructions.

Both World Wars remain compulsory in English secondary schools. To cover them without covering Churchill would be impossible.

"It is just conceivable that behind this lies the notion that 'great personages' can be taken out of history, which would certainly be a mistake," states Professor Paul Addison of the University of Edinburgh, a Churchill Centre academic adviser and author of two books on Churchill. "But the rest of Churchill's life has never been on the curriculum at all. If it were, it would demonstrate among other things the power of the media to distort the record—with Churchill as one of the main victims."

Sir Martin Gilbert, another Churchill Centre adviser and Churchill's official biographer, adds: "Paul Addison and I have long believed that there was more to Churchill than World War II (important though the war years are in his life and achievement). Both of us have written about many other aspects and periods of his long career. It would be good if the whole of Churchill's story could be taught. Perhaps it is, in different parts of the curriculum."

The Churchill Centre believes there is no anti-Churchill intent behind these changes, any more than an anti-Gandhi intent.

England has had an over-centralized system, giving teachers far too many instructions and trying to dictate the content of every hour of the school day. In the information age, the practice was too limiting.

Today, young people curious about why China, Russia, Britain and France are permanent Security Council members, but not Japan, India, Brazil and Germany; or why Israel is at such pains to defend itself; or how Ireland won freedom; or why the Middle East is what it is, and the borders of Iraq what they are; or where the Union of South Africa came from, will inevitably encounter Winston Churchill.
You can read the entire press release here.

In the next few weeks I’ll be saying more about the curriculum authority’s decision as well as the teaching of history in America. Most of what I post won’t be part of the series but I’ll give notice here when I do.




Anonymous said...

I'm trying to remember the last time a change in the school system in *this* country was a change for the better.

I'm wondering if the situation has been the same in the UK?